I had several problems with this article published in the New York Times today about doubting Mormons and wanted to point some of the flawsand so I wrote this blog post.
However, more importantly it is important to emphasize that belief always requires an act of faith. One can read the exact same historical accounts, but if approached with faith rather than doubt the results will differ. The Jews in the wilderness quickly forgot the miracles and turned against Moses. The people of Jerusalem rejected the savior of the world. These things happen because those individuals failed to show faith. The people ignored the signs of the messiah, and therefore looked beyond the mark. They took negative things out of context and therefore missed the savior of the world.
Those that criticize the Church are often doing the same thing. They are taking a few negative examples out of context and therefore are missing the mark. The truth is that Joseph Smith was in fact a prophet, and the Church is inspired. Anyone can know this for himself if he turns to God and asks in faith. The truth of these things will be confirmed by the power of the Holy Ghost. I know that this for myself and even though I have long studied Church history what I read only confirms the truth that I know.
Here are some of my major concerns
1) The article fails to make it clear that leadership in the Church is volunteer based. Instead, it repeatedly mentions that Brother Mattson “followed his father and grandfather into church leadership.” Overall, this article just does not suggest that the author really took the time to understand how the church is structured or what leadership positions mean. This is also visible in the fact that the article does not really explain what an ‘area authority’ does
2) This article suffers from a confirmation bias. It suggests that there is a wave of doubt and disillusionment, but basis this mostly on the words of individuals who have already left the church. How big is this wave? If so big, why is it that the Church is still one of the fastest growing in the world. The article does not grapple with these tensions. Instead, it relied on an online survey which was promoted through the bloggernacle and is admittedly unscientific.
3) The article really suggests that the church is very secretive at one point saying that “top leaders commonly deliberate in private,” but a lot of the anecdotes in the article such as the large fireside in Sweden with two Church Historians suggests otherwise. It briefly refutes this idea with a quote from Richard Bushman talking about increased openness, but this is buried much further into the article and the main article emphasizes the secretive aspect far too much.
4) The article does not quote many people that are still believers of the Church aside from scholars. It quotes Elder Holland from a conference talk, but takes only a tiny bit out of context. There is a complete lack of alternative voices testifying of the truth of the Church. This is what happens when a reporter only bothers to question one side of an issue.
5) The article does not offer responses to any of the questions in raises…It instead suggests that leaders hide or deny these questions. By raising doubts but not providing a source of answers this article does readers a great mis-service.
6) The mention of the Mountain Meadows Massacre is especially misleading as it merely sas that “church leaders plotted the slaughter of people” without saying which or mentioning that Brigham Young had no connection to it.
7) The article mentions that Brother Mattsson’s stake president told him not to discuss his doubts. While it is possible that a stake president gave such advice, but then the article also mentions that the church actually sent two general authorities to address his concerns and that of other members. Unfortunately, the article forgets to mention that an area authority is higher in church leadership than a stake president, and that the stake president’s advice can best be considered exactly that…advice.